Andrea Freedman: ‘Think big and take bold actions’

As she completes her seventh year as president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation, Andrea Freedman discusses bold new initiatives to help ensure the future vitality of Jewish Ottawa.

In what has become an annual tradition, I celebrate my work anniversary by penning a column for the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin. On Wednesday March 11, I am honoured to begin my eighth year serving as president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation.

Each year as I get older, I try to figure out if there is a “perfect” age for peak performance – balancing experience, knowledge, enthusiasm, capacity to learn and skill.

Experience likely makes me more efficient and better at doing the things I have always done. What was daunting in the beginning, is less so now and often takes less time. The more time in this role, the more opportunities there are to meet and connect with a greater number of people and deepen existing relationships. I have developed valuable institutional knowledge that helps guide decision making and hopefully leads to even better outcomes.

To a certain extent, experience has mellowed me. In other words, fewer things feel like a crisis, and there is greater appreciation that even though a situation is stressful, the sky is not actually falling and the sun will rise tomorrow (sounds obvious, but believe me, it was not on Day 1). When things go wrong or we lose a donor, it still hurts, and at the same time, there is a greater ability to realize that every bump in the road does not mean the end of the road.

Another goal I strive for (and still need to work on) is to not let negative experiences build up. We are all human, and baggage accumulates over time – it can be difficult to let go of negative experiences but it is important to try or this leads to challenging and messy relationships.

Over the last few months, I have been giving my experiences as CEO in Ottawa a great deal of thought and here is my conclusion. Being in a role for an extended period of time provides you with the confidence (and hopefully) skill to think big, take bold actions and surround yourself with the necessary incredible volunteers and staff to bring big ideas to fruition.

In this case, it led to the Jewish Superhighway – which articulated a vision for why more annual funds are needed for our community. And this led to Federation and Foundation strategic plans that launch unprecedented fundraising campaigns for the community.

The Generations Trust for Jewish Education – a partnership between Federation and Torah Day School of Ottawa and the Ottawa Jewish Community School will tackle the crisis of affordability in day schools. The Foundation’s Life & Legacy initiative – a partnership with 14 community organizations (including Federation) and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation to promote after-lifetime giving by making a gift in your will or life insurance policy – will provide much-needed financial security for generations.

Implementing these bold new initiatives will help ensure the future vitality of Jewish Ottawa (and lots of other great stuff – but there is a word limit for submissions to the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin) and this is why I remain highly motivated to get to the office in the morning and don’t mind staying late.

As I embark on Year 8 of serving Ottawa’s Jewish community, there are a few more grey hairs, and a still undiminished energy and enthusiasm to work with others to create meaningful Jewish experiences and Jewish journeys for all community members, at all stages of life and ensure that no one is left behind.